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CottonInfo Irrigation Automation Tour: Southern farmers talk irrigation automation adoption

It’s very early days with the automation but
at the same time very exciting. The benefit of knowing exactly when your field is done
– the weir can be tripped at that precise time that the bay is done. Once we get the
confidence in the automation technology – we’ve only irrigated twice here at the IREC station
– but ultimately we’ve very excited with how things are panning out.
The main challenge is basically a paradigm shift from our traditional siphon system to having
faith that our flat layouts will actually drain. Supply is easy, drainage is the difficult
thing; particularly with the cotton, if you don’t get that drainage right, we’re not going
to get the benefits. One of the real features about irrigation
is to be able to do the crop the way you want it to happen, and automation allows you to
do that. If you’re to go away for a while you’ll know that if you’re on automation and
it’s set properly, it’ll finish at the required time, and your job will be done properly. I’ve invested money in 3 centre pivots and 40 ha of drip irrigation, all which are now
defunct. I now use only Padman Stops with timers (so it’s partially automated). The
benefits of using the timers for irrigation have been my time, my ability to get a full
day’s work in. I sleep all night, so if I had a change at 3am, I still sleep through
it. Labour requirements are far less because I’m doing 250 hectares myself, and my workman
does 200 hectares, and we still achieve a day’s work. You look at your system as well as the automation that would marry in with that system, and
if you’ve got the opportunity to change your layouts, it would probably be wise to do both
at the same time. For example going from siphon irrigation to bankless channel if it suited,
but sometimes for whatever reason, whether it’s soil type, original layout, or water
supply issues, you may choose to stay with your siphon layout, but that doesn’t mean
you can’t go into an automated system; as we looked at today, we looked at pipe through
the bank systems where you’re watering 60-120 m at a time through one pipe, and that pipe
can be automated, and you’ve got the benefits of automation without moving a lot of dirt.

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